One simple tip to guarantee career success

Want to guarantee success in your career? Start making friends outside your industry.
By Thomas Shambler
Mon 24 Oct 2016 03:41 PM

If you were to try and predict success, what would you look for? Chances are, you're likely to think of skills like talent, intelligence, perseverance, hard work and maybe even a dash of luck.

No doubt, if you want to achieve incredible things you're going to need some of the above, but it turns out none of them are necessary to make it big in business In fact, if you want to guarantee success you're better off concentrating on making friends outside the industry.

Science offers clues as to why this might be. According to author and entrepreneur Michael Simmons, "according to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success".

A study carried out by Chicago Business School appears to back this up. It looked at a number of top brokerage firms in the United States and found that half of the predicted difference in career success (like promotion, compensation, industry recognition) comes from having an open network.

So what is an open network, and how do you curate one? "Most people spend their careers in closed systems; groups of people who already know each other," says Simmons. "People often stay in the same industry, friendship group or political party".

The advantages of this are obvious; you get more done. These groups already subscribe to a single world view, they work the same and think the same.

But open networks are different. Instead of being a member of a group, you act more like a node – connecting multiple network groups together. Having an open network is challenging, says Simmons, as "it requires assimilating different and conflicting perspectives into one worldview."

But when the sparks fly, and people with diverse backgrounds and experiences interact with each other, these types of networks become invaluable. Then you are no longer limited by one group's point of view and instead, have the ability to combine ideas from many different fields and belief systems.

While this sounds dangerously like new age thinking, consider some of the success stories. Steve Jobs joined calligraphy society in university (it's widely considered to be the reason for Apple's lofty design tenants).

Nate Silver (he of Moneyball fame) applied economics to baseball. Eric Ries used manufacturing best-practice in start-ups and revolutionised venture capital in doing so. And the list goes on; Einstein, Mozart, Edison and Van Gogh – all applied concepts from seemingly independent networks to create something incredible.

So if you want to better guarantee a more successful career, you're might as well start making friends outside the industry. And who knows, you may even have fun doing it.

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Last Updated: Thu 26 Jan 2017 01:27 PM GST

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